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How new graduates can stand out in the job market

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Have you recently graduated? Do you feel ready to start your dream job but have been applying for role after role without any success?

This is a common problem facing many graduates starting out in their career. The job market is highly competitive, meaning that there are hundreds of other people just like you, often with the same degree as you, applying for the same roles.

So how can you make yourself stand out?

As a recruitment consultant who has worked with many graduates, here is my advice on what steps you can take to get ahead of the competition.

1. Make sure your CV highlights your key skills

Many people do not know this, but a lot of companies use a computer system that filters out key words from the hundreds of CVs they receive. If your CV doesn’t contain the key words they are looking for, it will automatically get rejected before anyone has even glanced at it.

It is therefore vital that you highlight all the key skills you have gained from your past roles, even those roles that may not be directly relevant to the job you are applying for.   

I suggest making a note of all the roles you have ever had and think about the key skills gained from each. Even if you don’t have extensive experience in the field you want to work in, you can still highlight skills you have learnt through other roles or voluntary positions that are valuable to employers. For example, working in a bar can give you key skills such as managing a busy workload and managing customer expectations. Working as a sales assistant in a shop allows you to demonstrate fantastic customer service skills.   

It is also important to update the education section of your CV.  Make sure that your most recent grades are clearly stated. Add some of the specific modules you studied during your degree. This is particularly important if you are applying for a role that relates to your degree as it shows you have some experience and understanding gained from your education.

Add a short personal summary at the start of your CV. This should clearly and concisely state why you are interested in the role, what you can bring to that position and what skills you have that are relevant to the role you are applying for. Make sure you tailor this part of your CV to each job you apply for.

2. Get some work experience - do an internship

This is most likely to be the most important part of your CV from an employer's perspective and it is key to making you stand out from other graduates. If you don’t have any work experience at all in the field you want to work in, the chances are that you are likely to struggle to get an interview, especially if it's in a highly desirable field.

Look online for any internships, apprenticeship programs or training programs and sign up.  Research company websites and see what opportunities may be coming up.  Your university alumni careers centre may also be able to help put you in touch with potential employers.

Having any kind of formal experience on your CV will help you stand out from the competition.

3. Be proactive and network

It is quite easy to sit behind a computer and apply for role after role, but remember that everyone else is likely to be doing the same thing. Be the person that approaches companies directly as they are more likely to remember you if you do this.

Go to open evenings and events to learn more about the industry you want to work for.  These events can also give you the opportunity to meet recruiters and other people who can help you with your career or give you advice on what you need to do to get to where you want to be.

It is important to be proactive and if you can show on your CV that you have consistently been working and getting involved in extra-curricular activities even whilst studying, this will help you stand out as a graduate.

Now have a look back at your CV, highlight your skills, do your research and try to get some work experience, even if just for a few weeks.  If you follow these steps you will certainly increase your chances of landing that next job.

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